Sep 14 2008

Forecasting the Next 20 Years in Space — State of the Wave, Friday 9/12/08

Published by at 12:37 am under State of the Wave

Bruce’s presentation last Thursday to the AIAA Space 2008 Conference in San Diego is now online here.

“Forecasting the Next 20 Years in Space: The New Race to Space,” has 3 purposes: 1) to briefly introduce the macroeconomic and historical data of the last 200 years for Great Explorations, Macro-Engineering Projects, and major wars, and to explain how they provide a framework for 21st Century space and technology forecasts, 2) to explore the basic forecasts themselves for the next 20 years and summarize global events and trends supporting them, and 3) to feature space policy-related implications of the forecasts. The bottomline is that long waves in the economy provide a framework in which major exploring, impressive building, and tragic warrior behavior are especially enabled roughly every 56 years.

The 56 year energy cycle (discovered by Stewart, 1989) provides a remarkable indicator of macroeconomic activity; the energy peaks (e.g., in 1969) correspond directly to peaks in major decade-long economic booms. Indeed, the energy cycle and the better-known Kondratieff waves are directly correlated. And Alexander (2002) has shown that the popular Strauss and Howe (1991) generational cycles are also correlated with (and apparently influenced by) K Waves.

Historical data from the last 200 years clearly show that Great Explorations, massive MEPs, and major wars, cluster near the 56 year energy cycle peaks in 1801, 1857, 1913, and 1969 (and soon 2025). (See the presentation charts and The Articles.)

The close association of Great Explorations, MEPs, and major wars with the 56 year energy/economics cycle suggests the following “Maslow Window” model: Rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms create widespread affluence. As societal “Maslow pressures” are reduced, many people ascend the Maslow Heirarchy into an affluence-induced ebullient state and momentarily find exploring and building to be almost irresistible. While others also reach ebullience — but do not ascend the Maslow Heirarchy — and tragically trigger major wars. This unusual confluence of affluence and ebullience creates what we call a “Maslow Window” — a spectacular decade that rapidly declines just after the energy peak. The impressive economic, political, strategic, and scientific parallels between Lewis and Clark and Apollo are, for example, easily explained by this model, as are many other such parallels over the last 200 years.

Projecting the last 200 years into the next 20 suggests that the decade from 2015 to 2025 will be the analog — in the economy, technology, exploration, politics — of the 1960s, complete with a Camelot-style zeitgeist.

Many signs of the times (documented in this weblog) — most good and some bad — support the idea that society is approaching the 2015 Maslow Window, including: the greatest global economic boom ever (July, 2007; momentarily postponed by our current turmoil), energetic international space programs, return of Cold War-like tensions in Europe, birth of the space tourism industry, a global explosion of non-space MEPs (e.g., the $ 5 B Panama Canal expansion), the emergent exploration-loving Millennial generation, and many others.

Policy-related implications of this Maslow Window model abound and include: 1) public ebullience and support for major Maslow programs (e.g., manned Mars) will fade abruptly near the next 56 year energy peak (2025), 2) timing of the expected 2020s major war is a major wildcard, 3) planned human Moon and Mars initiatives should strive for self-sufficiency in space so at least some deep space (i.e., beyond LEO/GEO) operations can continue after Maslow Window closure near 2025, 4) current U.S. Moon base plans and Maslow Window timing appear to preclude American spaceflight to Mars during this Window (next Window opens in 2071), 5) the next rapidly approaching Maslow Window (opening in 2013-15) requires action now, not paralysis by analysis, … and many others.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Forecasting the Next 20 Years in Space — State of the Wave, Friday 9/12/08”

  1. GKon 14 Apr 2009 at 2:44 am

    Why does each energy peak have to have a major war? Would it not simply be an economic war?

    What major war started in 1969? The Cold war was already underway, and most of the casualties in VietNam had already happened. The decade after 1969 arguably had less warfare than the decade before 1969.

    Also, the Great Depression and WW2 appeared to be in the middle of the cycle, not at the ends. If the GD + WW2 period was 1929-45, 56 years after that comes to 1985-2001, which was actually a boom.

    Is it possible that the 56-year window is lengthening, because life expectancies are rising? In the past, the 56-year window was due to very few people living long enough to remember the prior crisis 56 years ago. Today, that cycle may be longer.

    Hi GK,

    I enjoyed your questions so much that I created a new post to address them.

    It’s at:

    Best regards…

  2. Carnival of Space 71 - .Astronomyon 14 Apr 2009 at 9:16 am

    […] 21st Century Waves is forecasting the next 20 years in space […]

  3. WTFon 15 Jul 2009 at 12:04 pm

    If 1969 was the energy peak, then what happened to “spectacular decade of economic success” OR the “major war”? 1970-1980 was a decade of Watergate,government incompetence, recession, Jimmy Cater’s famous “national malaise” , the Iranian hostage crisis, bungled rescue, etc.
    Do these esteemed economists ever look down from their Ivory Towers long enough to see what the world was really up to while they pick the fuzz out of their navels?

    Hi WTF,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Remember that the Maslow Window — the “spectacular decade of economic success,” if it is as long as a decade — always comes before the 56 year energy cycle peak, which was in 1969.

    The big war was Vietnam that began for the U.S. in 1960 but intensified in 1968. War deaths included about 60,000 for the U.S. and estimated millions for the Vietnamese, the end of President Lyndon Johnson’s presidential career, and deep political divisions in the U.S. which are still not entirely healed. It also signaled the beginning of the end of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window as the last 3 Apollo missions (18, 19, and 20) were canceled.

    You are right about the 1970s. They were completely different than the ebullient, early 1960s. Many of the things you mention are described in Andreas Killen’s excellent 2006 book, 1973 Nervous Breakdown — Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of Post-Sixties America. If you compare Killen to All You Need is Love — The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s, by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, you’ll be amazed at how different the 1960s and 1970s were, and how fast the 1960s Maslow Window crashed.

    Best regards,

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